Dr. Brad J. Bushman, Professor of Communication and Psychology, Margaret Hall and Robert Randal Rinehart Chair of Mass Communication
Title: Deadly Child’s Play: Exposure to Guns in Movies Increases Interest in Real Guns
Abstract: Children often want to imitate movie characters. Research has shown that children who see movie characters drink alcohol are more likely to drink themselves, and children who see movie characters smoke cigarettes are more likely to smoke themselves. What, then, happens when children see movie characters use guns? In one experiment, 104 children (52 pairs) were randomly assigned to watch a 20-minute clip of the same movie with or without guns. After watching the movie, children were told they could play in a room that contained toys and games for 20 minutes. The room also contained a cabinet with a real (disabled) gun inside one of the drawers. Among children who found the gun (72%) and picked it up (43%), those who previously saw a movie with guns handled it longer (53.1 vs. 11.1 seconds) and pulled the trigger more times (2.8 vs. 0.01 trigger pulls) than those who saw the movie without guns. We are currently replicating this experiment using video games. These experiments are important because 40 children are shot with a gun each day in the U.S.